Where Does Authority Lie?

Written by Drew on March 3rd, 2006

Numerous controversies can be traced back to one crucial issue: authority. Since the sixties, authority has been attacked from every angle. Socially, the results have been feminism, homosexuality, divorce, drugs, and the sexual revolution. Spiritually, this attitude has precipitated change in the churches of Christ: women serving in leadership roles, instrumental music in worship, lax morality, and doctrinal compromise.

Christ, however, still holds an authoritative position (Mt. 28:18), whether we admit it or not. And He communicates that authority to us even today. Where does this authority lie?

1. Not in the Old Testament. At one time the Old Testament was the embodiment of God’s authority, but today a new covenant has been established (Heb. 8:6-13; Col. 2:14).

Some defend instrumental music in worship using Old Testament texts (e.g., Ps. 150). Will they also require animal sacrifices, the priesthood of Aaron, the tabernacle, feast days and Sabbaths, and death by stoning to disobedient children?

2. Not in red letters alone. “Red letters” refers to the words of Christ. There has been a push in recent times to put more emphasis on the words of Christ found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

But we must be careful about emphasizing certain matters in scripture to the exclusion of others. Unless God has told us to put more weight on the words of Christ than on those of the apostles, we should treat every scripture equally. In fact, we know that the epistles carry as much weight as the words of the Lord Himself, because they all originate from the same source.

Before the Lord ascended into heaven, He promised the apostles a “Helper,” the “Spirit of truth,” who would “guide them into all the truth.” It was said of this Spirit that “he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak” (Jn. 16:13). Jesus earlier had said the same thing of His own words: “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father wh osent me has himself given me a commandment–what to say and what to speak” (Jn. 12:49).

3. Not in silence. When innovations are introduced into worship, for example, we often hear this excuse: “The Bible doesn’t say we can’t do it.” Another way of putting it is, “What is forbidden in scripture cannot be practiced; what is not forbidden in scripture may be practiced.” This is very different from the slogan that has characterized the churches of Christ for the last 200 years: “Speak where the Bible speaks; remain silent where the Bible is silent.”

But the scriptures make it clear that God considers silence to be prohibitive. Consider some examples:

  • The Hebrews writer argued that Christ was better than the angels based on what God did not say concerning them (Heb. 1:5, 13).
  • Jesus is shown to be a priest after a different order than that of the Law of Moses, since Moses said nothing concerning priests from tribes other than Levi (Heb. 7:14).
  • Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, were struck dead because they offered strange fire, which God commanded them not (Lev. 10:1-2).

4. Not in cultural shifts. The church must shift with the times, we are told. Otherwise it will become irrelevant. But the church is transcultural; it surpasses culture to subject itself to a higher law.

Two examples: When Jesus instructed the Jews concerning divorce, He did not consider the culture of the day, which was quite permissive. He instead cited God’s initial intentions in the Garden of Eden (Mt. 19:3-9). Also, when Paul taught on the role of women in the church and in the family, thankfully he did not heed his culture, which was abusive to women. He relied upon the authoritative word of God, spoken in the beginning (1 Tim. 2:11-15; Eph. 5:22-33).

5. Not just in relationships. Christians disagree over whether the New Testament was written as a “love letter” stressing the relationship between God and His chosen people, or a “book of laws” promulgating regulations for the church. The truth is, it is intended to be both.

Dick Sztanyo writes,

Some things in the Bible are foundational teachings. That is, they teach us about the love and nature of God, his plan to save man, the life and teachings of Christ, and so forth. These foundational teachings are NOT commands, but rather, are intended to make commands of Scripture both rational and possible. The demands of the Christian life would not make sense at all, nor would it be possible for men to measure up to them, without information about God which allows for the trusting relationship to occur (“How the Bible Authorizes,” The Spiritual Sword, April 1990, p. 7).

Accordingly, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15). Sztanyo goes on to say, “The commandments which required a response grew out of teachings which were foundational!” (i.e., teachings on the love God has for men, D.K.).

6. Not in relativism. “Anything goes” religion can be found in abundant supply in our day and time. A “seeker sensitive” approach to church growth has caught on. Instead of planting the seed of God’s word (Lk. 8:11), popular religious leaders are planting public opinion. Numerically the results are impressive, but is the crop Christian?

Where does authority lie? It remains in the same place it was found before Jesus ascended into heaven. He said to His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt. 28:18). Nothing has changed, for He also said, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (Jn. 12:48).

The Muslims have one thing right. Walking with God is about submission. If the church becomes as anti-authoritarian as its surroundings, there is no hope for it. May it find true authority and submit to God.


4 Comments so far ↓

  1. The Berean Examiner says:

    Not in cultural shifts?! Then why do you not practice foot washing then? If you say that you think that CENI is the only way, the why do you not practice foot washing? Foot washing is a both cammand and example, a double wammy.

    hy·poc·ri·sy: (h?-p?k’r?-s?)
    n., pl. -sies.
    The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.
    An act or instance of such falseness.

    hyp·o·crite: (h?p’?-kr?t’)
    A person given to hypocrisy.

    The Bible’s condemnation of hypocrites is clear. The Bible also clearly pledges that God will judge hypocrites (Matthew 24:51). God is more angered by hypocrisy than we can ever be.”Our Lord severely rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16).

    “The hypocrite’s hope shall perish” (Job 8:13). The Hebrew word here rendered “hypocrite” rather means the “godless” or “profane,” as it is rendered in Jer. 23:11, i.e., polluted with crimes.

    Jesus says, “Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

    Hypocrisy is derived from the Greek word hypokrisis, which meant playing a part on the stage, or putting on a mask to misrepresent reality. In the ancient Greek theater, actors were known as hypocrites, without any negative connotation. In the real world however, being a hypocrite, pretending to be something while actually being something else, was and is definitely viewed as wrong. In matters of religion, it’s downright evil.
    Jesus’ Warning To The Hypocrites

    Jesus Christ did not mince words when it came to religious hypocrisy. That, more than anything else, is what got Him killed. His death was a staged assassination by a few religious hypocrites who The Lord was very effectively exposing to the people under their authority.

    “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5 RSV)
    “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-6 RSV)

    “Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you transgress the Commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die.’ But you say, ‘If any one tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father.’ So, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'” (Matthew 15:1-9 RSV)

    Drew, It is time, way past time for you to practice what you preach. If you can not practice what you preach, then do not preach it.

  2. Drew Kizer says:


    Take a deep breath and think for a moment. You are one of my most regular readers, but sometimes I don’t even think my words are registering.

    I did not say culture has no effect on our practices; I said it is not our authority. Big difference.

    If you have drifted away from the faith to the point that culture is your guide in all affairs, instead of the Bible, then you accept a number of things that have culture’s backing–abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, sexual immorality, etc.

  3. The Berean Examiner says:

    Yes, Your blog is in my favorites folder in IE. While I am at it, Thank you for the time and effort that you put into your blog.

    Okay, I thought for a moment and your words stil not registering with me. In other words, Can you expand on “the big difference between your practices and your authority”?

    In order for someone to drift away from the truth (faith) to begin with, they have to have the truth to begin with. It is a cart before the horse type of thing. Yes, it’s true that the truth shall set your free, that I am learning the truth, that I am “emerging” from Satan’s legalism (Rom 7:7), and the truth is setting me free (John 8:32). Praise God!

    Now is the time for you to learn the truth so that the truth will set you free. How ever I did not say that “culture is my guide in all affairs”. “Culture” or no “culture”, the Bible is very clear about homosexuality and sexual immorality.

    What I said was concerning your hypocrisy (your pick and choose theology). You said that culture should not be our guide and then you say that you do not practice foot washing because it was a culture thing. What is the next thing that you are going to say? That is okay to have women elders and preachers because what the Bible said about women was a culture thing just like our Gal 3:28.org Church of Christ brothers and sisters in Christ are saying? No, you would not say that because you practice a pick and choose theology.

    You’ve just told John, that CENI was IT. Read in your Bible about “foot washing”. Or have you taken that part out of your Bible? You will notice that foot washing is both a command and example and yet, you still do not practice what you preach.

    You say that we must “restore” the NT Church. The NT Church practice foot washing. And you still do not practice the NT “pattern” of foot washing. If this is not hypocrisy, then I do not know what is.

    You said that our authority does not lie in the Old Testament (Gal 3:24). Hey, guess what. Foot washing is in the New Testament. And you did say that “we should treat every scipture equally”.

    “Authority does not lie in silence”. The Bible was not silent about foot washing. The Bible speaks on foot washing. And you said that “We speak where the Bible speaks. Remain silent where the Bible is silent.”(what a joke) You also said that the Bible is silent concerning instrumental music in the worship service of the church but you scream and even refuse unity with Mike Cope, Jeff Walling and our other brothers and sisters in the Christian Church just on this issue of instrumental music. Do you even consider the members of the Christian Church to be our brothers and sisters in Christ? Brian Yeager does not. Hypocrisy.

    Instumental music is in the New Testament (Matthew 6:10 & Revelation 5:8)so you do not have to go to the Old Testament to defend it. You are right, our authority now lies under the New Testament.

    Before you even go there. I am not saying that we should practice foot washing.

    I have read Heb 1:5&13, Heb 7:14, Lev 10:1-2, Acts 15:24-29 a million times and I still do not see the words “Silent is prohibitive”.

    May we find true authority and submit to God, but NOT to legalism.

  4. The Berean Examiner says:

    Let’s reread Hebrews again.

    1 In the past God spoke to our people through the prophets.* He spoke to them many times and in many different ways.
    2 And now in these last days, God has spoken to us again through his Son. He made the whole world through his Son. And he has chosen his Son to have all things.
    3 The Son shows the glory* of God. He is a perfect copy of God’s nature, and he holds everything together by his powerful
    command. The Son made people clean from their sins. Then he sat down at the right sidea of God, the Great One in heaven.
    4 The Son became much greater than the angels, and God gave him a name that is much greater than any of their names.
    5 God never said this to any of the angels:“You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.”Psalm2:7 God also never said about an angel, “I will be his Father, and he will be my son.” 2 Samuel 7:14
    6 And then, when God sent his firstborn Son into the world, he said,“Let all God’s angels worship the Son.”
    Deuteronomy 32:43
    7 This is what God said about the angels: “God changes his angels into windsd
    and his servants into flaming fire.” Psalm104:4 e1:13 until I put … power Literally, “until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
    8 But he said this about his Son:“Your throne, O God, will continue forever and ever.
    You will rule your kingdom with right judgments.
    9 You love the right,and you hate the wrong.
    So God, your God, has given you
    a greater joy than he gave the people with you.” Psalm45:6–7
    10 God also said,“O Lord, in the beginning you made the earth, and your hands made the sky.
    11 These things will disappear,
    but you will stay. They will all wear out like old clothes.
    12 You will fold them up like a coat, and they will be changed like clothes.
    But you never change, and your life will never end.” Psalm102:25–27
    13 And God never said this to an angel: “Sit at my right side
    until I put your enemies under your power.e” Psalm110:1
    14 All the angels are spirits who serve God and are sent to help those who will receive salvation.

    God was not silent about this. God specified that The Son shows the glory of God. God specified that Jesus is a perfect copy of God’s nature, and he holds everything together by his powerful command. God specified that the Son made people clean from their sins and that he sat down at the right sidea of God, the Great One in heaven and that the Son became much greater than the angels, and God gave him a name that is much greater than any of their names. God specified that Jesus is his son and that he is his father. God specified that the angels worship the first born son. God specified that the throne of Jesus will continue forever and ever. God specified that the son will rule his kingdom with right judgements. God specified that Jesus love the right and hate the wrong. God specified that he has spoken to us again through his son. God specified that he has chosen his son to have all things. God specified what he never said about an angel. God specified that he changes his angels into winds and his servants into flaming fire. God specified that he has given you a greater joy than he gave the people with you.

    When God specified something, then there is no silence. When God specified something, we need to listen to what he specified and not to what he did not specify(silience) Is “silence prohibitive”? based on Hebrews 1? NO WAY!!! Do you know the difference between specificity and silence?
    Specificity, NOT silence!

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